Lynda Waddington at the Iowa Independent reminds us that in much of rural America it’s not insurance that’s the problem, but access to doctors, nurses, pharmacies, home health care and mental health treatment. We can pay for health care just as well as people in the cities. There’s just less to buy.
“We have some serious challenges in Iowa as it relates to the number of providers that we have,” Tom Newton, executive director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, tells Waddington. “We do have a high percentage of our population in Iowa that is insured at this time, and I would tell you that even some of them struggle right now to get access to health care. You can’t just assume that by providing people with a source of payment that you’ve provided them with access to health care.” In Iowa, as in many rural states, the number of health care professionals is “plummeting,” Waddington writes. One of the problems is a rapidly aging health care workforce.
“The alarming demographics and shrinking number of health care workers in rural areas are not just limited to primary care doctors,” Waddington writes. “We aren’t just talking about those people that are traditionally thought of as health care providers – it’s dentists, it’s mental health and it’s even pharmacy,” said Cheryll Jones, a southeastern Iowa pediatric nurse practitioner who serves on the board of the Iowa Rural Health Association. “There aren’t necessarily huge numbers of pharmacies in rural areas. So, even if you have a provider, you may have to travel a fair distance to get your prescription filled.”